Tracklist

  1. Ring Ma Bell
  2. Only U
  3. Hip Up
  4. Ring Ma Bell (instrumental)

Review

“Ring Ma Bell” is the second single from JYP-backed quintet Two X. You would be wrong, however, to think that Two X refers to the group being 2x something. Two X actually stands for “Top Win One Multiply,” an acronym which makes Tsunku’s efforts look absolutely Shakespearean in comparison. They are managed by J. Tune Entertainment, a subsidiary of K-pop conglomerate JYP Entertainment and the agency behind Rain and MBLAQ. While “Ring Ma Bell” is a pleasant enough track, it fails to set the group apart amidst the ever-crowded sea of talented girl groups.

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After an incredibly strong debut, it’s disappointing to that “Ring Ma Bell” is such a regression in both song and MV concept.  However, the group’s first effort “Double Up” did not have the intended sales success, peaking at #19 on the Mnet charts and being beaten by Tiny-G’s debut.  For this MV, the producers have certainly cut costs, but their cost-cutting efforts appear very obviously in the final product.

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The first time I watched this, I giggled at the hilarious misunderstanding of “Ring Ma Bell” — the members all make cell phone signals with their hand, but didn’t they know the hidden sexual meaning?   When I went to the interwebs to double-check this, things got complicated. It turns out no one really knows what this phrase means.

“Ring my bell” has been used in a couple of dozen different ways in songs, dating all the way back to 1892’s hit “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)“, where it referenced a bicycle bell and the titular character’s sexual desire.

“Ring my Bell” was also the title of a 1972 disco hit by Anita Ward where the bell refers to a doorbell and a non-explicit sexual desire, while “Ring my Bells” was a 2007 Enrique Iglesias song where bells are a vague yet definitively sexual reference. Upon further watching, I realized that perhaps the members of Two X also used bell in the sense of…well, bell curves.

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Basically we — as a planet! — have decided that ‘ring my bell’ has vaguely sexual undertones and are content to fill in the gaps in interpretation without really knowing what the bell refers to and how one goes about ringing it.  This is a level of global cooperation that puts the Olympics to shame — if only we could find the same level of linguistic leniency when discussing non-sexual issues.

Beyond this realization, there’s not much more to offer. There’s certainly nothing new about this single’s concept or sound.  The track opens with a bell chorus, then continues with minimal instrumentation save some drums and synth. The outfits are standard K-pop aegyo fare, but with Passpo and SNSD already doing the “bright pink outfits against a blue sky” theme in the past year, it seems overly derivative.

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While there is nothing wrong with the members performances, there is also nothing that stands out. Vocally, the group is not 4minute and choreographically the group is not miss A.

In a less competitive world, the member’s ample training would be enough to make up for what they lack in raw talent.  However, in the week of their debut, they must face the comeback album of Rainbow (you can read my review here) and the epic debut of EXID subunit DASONI, who has released easily the best single of 2013 despite sounding like the bottled water company.

I desperately want to write about what sets TWO X apart from these and the dozen other girl groups releasing this month, but beyond an utterly hilarious name, I’m not finding anything.

For the MV, Two X have gone the opposite of the average H!P production.  It’s low budget to be sure, but rather than than putting all their money into one or two ill-formed ideas, they try to execute multiple ideas as cheaply as possible.  Thus we have bad CGI, a bad comic book effect, and a scene that is definitely set at a sex party.

My mom told me that a bed, a bar, and you should never all be in the same room together.

My mom told me that a bed, a bar, and you should never all be in the same room together.

(Shameless sex party aside) there’s not a concept within the MV that hasn’t been done by another group in the past year. Still this MV leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions. Why is the bedroom where the members get ready completely decked out with products from IKEA (for example this picture, this lamp and this lantern), when there is no IKEA in South Korea?

Can it be product placement if the target audience has no access to the product?  Why does Min Joo’s dress turn from yellow to peach then back to yellow while all the other member’s dresses stay the same color? And finally, why would you ever do this to your lips?

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The single comes with two B-sides, a mid-tempo R&B track “Only U” and a techno-inspired dance song “Hip Up”. “Only U” is listenable enough, though I could have done without all the high pitch pinging during the verses.  The chorus, is actually worth a few listens. “Hip Up” is a mess. It tries hard to channel Perfume, but fails miserably at capturing their polished electronic sound by throwing several dozen ideas into the song at once.

Verdict: I’ve already forgotten what this single sounds like, but have decided to launch a global campaign to make “Ring My Bell” refer exclusively to bell hooks.